“There’s a reason why we have, frankly, a crisis in recruitment in the all-volunteer military—the first time we’ve had a recruitment crisis, really, since the end of the Vietnam War,” Vance, R-Ohio, said Wednesday. “I think it’s because the perception among a lot of people who would otherwise enlist is that the military has become politicized.”
Three branches of the U.S. military—the Army, Navy, and Air Force—are on track to miss their 2023 recruiting goals.
Appearing at an Axios event in Washington, Vance defended Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., who has delayed the promotions of more than 300 military officers in a dispute over the Pentagon’s controversial taxpayer-funded abortion policy.
“The military cannot be an arm of either administration’s social policy. There’s a law that says abortions will not be publicly funded and the Biden administration is circumventing that law in a way that destroys credibility in the military,” said Vance, who enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps after high school and later served in the Iraq War.
Tuberville began blocking the promotions in March, arguing the Defense Department policy was unlawfully implemented without congressional approval. He’s vowed to not release his “hold” on the promotions until the policy is revoked.
The Pentagon’s policy provides three weeks of taxpayer-funded paid leave and reimbursement of travel expenses for military personnel and dependents who are seeking abortions. An estimate from the Rand Corp. predicts the number of abortions in the military eligible for taxpayer-covered expenses would skyrocket from 20 to more than 4,000 each year.
Even though Tuberville has objected to “unanimous consent”—the Senate process of rubber-stamping an entire bloc of nominees without a recorded vote—he said on numerous occasions that Democrats could proceed with individual votes for each military officer’s promotion.
“Let’s vote on them,” Vance told Axios reporter Hope King. “Tuberville can’t prevent them from getting on [a nominee]—all he’s doing is forcing a vote on each one. I think it’s reasonable to say we should evaluate these guys one by one.”
As a result of Tuberville’s delay, military officers who would have otherwise escaped much scrutiny are now being carefully examined for their radical views on issues ranging critical race theory to COVID mandates.
The standoff took a new turn Tuesday when Tuberville secured the backing of at least 16 other rank-and-file senators to force a vote on Gen. Eric Smith’s promotion to Marine Corps commandant. Vance was among the senators who signed Tuberville’s cloture petition.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who had previously refused to bring any nominee to the floor, changed course Wednesday.
Hours later, the Senate confirmed Air Force Gen. C.Q. Brown to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Eleven senators voted against Brown’s confirmation, including Tuberville and Vance. Conservatives strongly opposed Brown’s promotion over concerns ranging from his leadership of the U.S. Air Force to his embrace of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the military.
The Senate is expected to vote Thursday on the promotion of Gen. Randy A. George to be the U.S. Army’s chief of staff.
Speaking in the Senate chamber Wednesday, Tuberville said he remained steadfastly opposed to the Pentagon’s abortion policy and wouldn’t relent until it’s reversed.
“My hold is still in place. The hold will remain in place as long as the Pentagon’s illegal abortion policy remains in place,” Tuberville said. “If the Pentagon lifts the policy, then I will lift my hold. It’s as easy as that.”
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